Start here for FAQs and resources about using copyright protected materials in your assignments, projects and presentations for your courses at SFU.
Contact the Copyright Office (email@example.com) with any questions.
Frequently asked questions
Some text derived from University of Waterloo (licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) and University of Saskatchewan (licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.5) copyright FAQs.
See Copyright basics FAQs for information on how copyright works in Canada and at SFU and general information about the Canadian Copyright Act.
Copyright and your coursework
As a student of Simon Fraser University, what can I legally copy?
Under copyright law, fair dealing allows you to make one copy of part of a work for yourself for the purposes of education, private study, research, parody, satire, review, criticism or news reporting. Please see "Is there a limit to how much I can copy?" for the SFU Fair Dealing guidelines as to how much of a work you can copy for purposes of your course assignments at SFU.
Also, you may copy materials for which the university (e.g. the Library) has negotiated licenses according to the terms of the agreement.
Please review SFU Policy R30.04 Copyright Compliance and Administration, the Application of Fair Dealing under Policy R30.04 and Application of Fair Dealing to the Student Activities of Learning and Research (R30.04 Appendix J) for more information.
Is there a limit to how much I can copy?
Yes. If you are copying material for use in a course, fair dealing allows for limited copying of short excerpts of copyright protected works. SFU has fair dealing limits for copying for educational purposes set out in the policy Application of Fair Dealing under Policy R30.04. The material copied can only be distributed to students engaged in a specific course of study at SFU and cannot be made available to those not in the class. The short excerpt can be made available as a class handout (or email); in Canvas; or as part of a coursepack. See below, and refer to the Copyright Information Graphic for details.
The amount of a short excerpt that can be copied for educational purposes under fair dealing at SFU is:
(i) Up to 10% of a copyright protected work,
(ii) One chapter from a book (a short story is not a chapter but is a complete work and therefore is not a short excerpt),
(iii) A single article from a periodical,
(iv) An entire artistic work from a copyright protected work containing other artistic works,
(v) An entire newspaper article or page,
(vi) A single poem or musical score from a copyright protected work containing other poems or musical scores,
(vii) An entire entry from an encyclopedia, annotated bibliography, dictionary or similar reference work.
The limits described above are mutually exclusive. Use the one that works best in the specific situation.
NOTE: Copying or communicating multiple short excerpts from the same copyright protected work, with the:
(i) Effect of exceeding the copying limits set out in Section 4.4 of this Appendix or
(ii) Intention of copying or communicating substantially the entire work,
If you are copying material for use on a website, in publicity materials, for publication or any other use outside a course, you may need the permission of the copyright holder. See the Instructors' resources page for sources of less copyright-restricted materials, or contact the Copyright Officer (firstname.lastname@example.org) with a specific question or for help obtaining permission.
I want to use another person's images and materials in my assignment or class presentation. What am I able to do under copyright?
Most images you find on the Internet, in books and elsewhere are protected by copyright. The act of creating something automatically gives it copyright protection. For example, you own the copyright in the photographs you take with your smart phone.
The use of copyright protected images in student assignments and presentations for university courses is covered by Copyright Act exceptions for fair dealing and educational institution users. The fair dealing exception allows you to use excerpts of copyright protected material in certain circumstances without asking permission. The educational institution exceptions permit specific uses of copyright protected material by instructors in the classroom. See the FAQ "Is there a limit to how much I can copy?" for a simple break down of how much you can copy under SFU's Fair Dealing Policy, which is the University's guidelines for working under fair dealing. See the Copyright Infographic describing both fair dealing and the educational institution exceptions for instructors, to find out what you can do when presenting to your class, handing things out to your classmates, or otherwise acting like an "instructor" in your course.
In general in your course assignments you can, under fair dealing for purposes of research, private study and education, use one entire image from a compilation of images (e.g. a gallery of images on the Web, a coffee table book), or up to 10% of a stand alone image (an image that is not part of a larger compilation but is on its own such as a photograph pinned up on your wall). The educational institution exceptions will allow you to display an entire work (even a whole stand alone image) in the classroom (e.g. in your PowerPoint slides), but not to hand out copies.
In certain circumstances you may be able to use more than a "short excerpt" (e.g. 10%) of a work under fair dealing. SFU's Fair Dealing Policy sets out "safe harbour" limits for working under fair dealing at SFU, but the Copyright Act does not impose specific limits. See the FAQ "What is fair dealing and how does it relate to copyright?" for more information. If you want to use more than is outlined in the policy, and your use doesn't fall under the educational exceptions, contact the Copyright Office to ask for a fair dealing assessment to be performed.
It is also an excellent idea to look for images that come with re-use rights, which you can freely use within the limits of any license terms. Examples are materials posted to the Web under a Creative Commons license, or materials that are out of copyright and now in the public domain. You can search for such material using the Creative Commons search engine.
Please contact the Copyright Officer at email@example.com if you have questions.
Does citing a work make it okay to copy it?
No. Citing the source of a work you use is good academic practice and helps you avoid plagiarism, but citation alone does not mean you are permitted to copy the work.
In order to legally copy a copyright-protected work for use in teaching materials, assignments, or theses/dissertations, your use must be permitted by one of the following:
- explicit permission from the copyright owner;
- use of an "insubstantial" amount, e.g., a typical short quote of a few sentences;
- a user's rights exception in the Copyright Act, such as fair dealing;
- the terms of a license, like those the SFU Library has for ejournals and ebooks [note: these licenses typically don't permit use in a thesis/dissertation]; or
- the terms of an open license, such as a Creative Commons license, applied to the work by its copyright owner.
What are Creative Commons licenses?
Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that has developed a suite of licenses that authors and other creators can apply to their works to permit sharing and distribution. Applying a Creative Commons (CC) license to your written, artistic, musical or multimedia work means that you retain ownership of copyright but you permit certain uses of your work without the user needing to contact you for permission each time. You also waive your moral rights, to the extent required for users to use your works according to the applied license. Please note that users of copyright protected works (including those under CC licenses) have certain rights in Canada’s Copyright Act; these rights will supersede the terms of a CC license where applicable.
You must be the copyright holder of the work and any other works contained within it (such as photographs, diagrams, articles, video clips, etc.), or have license or permission to include these works, in order to apply a CC license. Once you make your work available under a specific CC license, you cannot revoke or change the license associated with that specific work (though of course you may stop distributing the material).
There are six different CC licenses, each with various parameters and requirements, ranging from extremely open and permissive to slightly less so. All CC licenses will permit typical teaching uses such as displaying in the classroom, distributing to students or posting in Canvas. These licenses are described below.
CC BY (Attribution)
The most open of Creative Commons licenses, this option permits others to copy, distribute, adapt and otherwise use your work in any way without contacting your for permission. However, they are required to credit you in any use they make of your work.
CC BY-SA (Attribution-ShareAlike)
This license permits others to copy, distribute, adapt and otherwise use your work in any way without contacting you for permission. However, they are required to credit you in any use they make of your work, and also to license any derivative work (e.g. an adapted version) under the same license.
CC BY-ND (Attribution-NoDerivs [No Derivatives])
This license permits others to copy and distribute your work without contacting you for permission. However, they are required to credit you on the copies they make and they are not permitted to change your work in any way.
CC BY-NC (Attribution-NonCommercial)
This license permits others to copy, distribute, adapt and otherwise use your work without contacting you for permission. However, they are required to credit you in any use they make of your work and they are not permitted to use the work for commercial purposes. Non-commercial purposes are defined by Creative Commons as those “not primarily intended or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation.”
CC BY-NC-SA (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike)
This license permits others to copy, distribute, adapt and otherwise use your work without contacting you for permission. However, they must credit you in any use they make of the work; they are not permitted to use the work for commercial purposes; and they must license any derivative work (e.g. an adapted version) under the same license. Non-commercial purposes are defined by Creative Commons as those “not primarily intended or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation.”
CC BY-NC-ND (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs [No Derivatives])
This license permits others to copy and distribute your work without contacting you for permission. However, they must credit you on any copies they make; they are not permitted to use the work for commercial purposes; and they are not permitted to change your work in any way. Non-commercial purposes are defined by Creative Commons as those “not primarily intended or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation.”
How does copyright apply to data?
Data and factual information (e.g., rainfall or temperature measurements, mortality rates, population numbers, currency values, chemical structures, historical facts and dates, the number of Twitter followers someone has) are not protected by copyright. Additionally, simple and typical visualizations such as line graphs and tables, or the bar chart shown below, are often not creative enough to be eligible for copyright protection. These types of material may be able to be copied and used without permission.
However, some types of research products that might be used in a similar way to data (e.g., photographs, audiovisual recordings, detailed diagrams and charts, collections of text mined from websites or publications) are most likely protected by copyright.
If you are using someone else's data in your teaching or research, you will need to consider its copyright status, and ensure that you have the right or permission to copy and share it. Remember that fair dealing and other rights may apply.
If you are generating or compiling data in your research, any copyright in these materials may belong to you, another member of your research team, or an external third party. If your data incorporates works created by others, you will need to consider the copyright status before sharing or making it public, unless your use of the work falls under fair dealing or a similar provision. . If you are depositing to a research data repository, such as FRDR, you should ensure you have the right, or permission, from any rightsholders, to deposit copyright-protected material (more information about copyright considerations for data deposits can be found on this page).
Any questions about data and copyright can be directed the SFU Copyright Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image credit: Chart generated at vancouver.weatherstats.ca
Is there a certain way I have to cite a copyright protected work that I reproduce in an assignment or thesis?
Not usually. Generally, you should follow the style guide recommended by your instructor or used in your discipline to identify all material you did not create, in any medium. Your readers will assume that you have adhered to any applicable copyright laws and policies.
However, there are circumstances in which you may be requested or required to include certain information in a citation. Creative Commons licenses require that you indicate which license applies, and link to the license details if possible. An individual license or permission from a creator or publisher may also require that you include certain information. In these cases you should fit this information into your discipline's style guide if possible. You can ask a librarian for assistance with citations.
What are the rules about making handouts for other students in my class?
You are permitted to make copies of your own work to distribute or share with other students in your class. If you want to make a handout for the rest of your class that includes material that you did not create, you may need permission from the copyright holder to do so. However, if your instructor asked you to make a presentation to or lead a discussion in your class for an educational or training purpose, you do not need copyright permission for material used in a handout or for display in the classroom so long as you only distribute your handout to other students in your class or present the material in the classroom. Please review SFU Policy R30.04 Copyright Compliance and Administration and the Application of Fair Dealing under Policy R30.04 for more information.
What if I hand out copies of my PowerPoint slides and there are copyright protected images/material on the slides?
Simon Fraser University instructors own copyright in their lectures, and students own copyright in their presentations and assignments, as per SFU Policy R30.03 Intellectual Property Policy, but you may not own the copyright to all of the content within your lecture or presentation. Many educational uses of copyright protected materials are allowed for through fair dealing and educational exceptions to the Copyright Act. However, what you can display in the classroom may be different from what you can distribute to students.
It is important that access to the material is limited to the students enrolled in the course and that the copying limits of the Application of Fair Dealing under Policy R30.04 are respected if the slides will be handed out rather than just displayed in the classroom. If you need to make use of a greater volume of material than that which is permitted through the fair dealing policy, you must:
1. Remove copyright materials from the slides before creating the handouts,
2. Request that SFU’s Copyright Officer evaluate whether a particular instance of copying or communication of a copyright-protected work is permitted under the fair dealing exception, or
3. Seek express written permission from the copyright holder to copy and communicate that content. Be sure to keep a copy of any permission you receive.
Why am I not able to download or print this entire ebook?
The SFU Library provides access to ebooks from many different publishers on a variety of platforms. Some of the ebook platforms include DRM (Digital Rights Management) to protect the content of their ebooks from copyright abuse. This means that you will encounter a variety of limitations in how much you can print, download and save from an ebook.
Access to ebooks on third party platforms is an agreement between the platform and the publisher; the library has no involvement, except for the right to purchase (or lease) the ebook on an ebook platform.
It is common for a publisher, or an author, to request additional DRM limits (on top of the platform's standard DRM restrictions). Unfortunately, there is no way to know for sure which ebooks these additional limits apply to -- except when you attempt to do something that is beyond the limits, such as print 20 pages in one session if the publisher has set the limit to 15 pages on that platform.
- The copy and print limits on most Proquest Ebook Central books are based on a percentage of the number of pages in the book. (per book, per user session) Pages you can print = 30% and pages from which you can copy = 15%.
- Allows full book download for two weeks (14 days) using Adobe Digital Editions
- You must register for an account.
- Allows PDF downloads of a single article or portions of a single article at a time.
Can I record my instructor's lecture to watch later?
Instructors are the authors and copyright owners of their course materials (this includes things like lecture notes, PowerPoint presentations and exams). The written version of a lecture as well as the verbal delivery (i.e. performance) of that lecture are both protected by copyright. Since a copyright owner has the right to control what can be done with their works, you may not record an entire lecture (or copy entire lecture notes or exams) without the prior permission of your instructor.
There are, however, certain users' rights included in the Copyright Act which allow the copying of a copyright protected work, in specific situations. Under fair dealing, you may copy a short excerpt of a copyright protected work for purposes including private study, education and research.
Contact the Copyright Office (email@example.com) with any questions.
Please note that if you require your course materials in a different format due to a disability you can contact the Centre for Accessible Learning (CAL) (formerly: the Centre for Students with Disabilities) for assistance with such accommodation.
As a student, are works I create (such as assignments and research) protected by copyright?
Yes. The Copyright Act specifies that “every original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work” is protected by copyright, and this includes student work as well as your thesis. This means that your permission is required in order for an instructor to keep a copy to share it with future students.
Additionally, SFU's Intellectual Property Policy specifies that "IP created exclusively by a student Creator in the course of completing the requirements for an academic degree or certificate is owned by the student Creator." Remember that if you are collaborating with a faculty member, or anyone else, you should discuss the intellectual property rights and any necessary agreements before beginning the project.
Who in the University is responsible for ensuring that faculty, staff and students comply with the University’s copyright policy?
Everyone. Faculty, staff and students should always seek to comply with the Copyright Act as a best practice of academic professionalism. You are only permitted to make lawful copies of works, and use works in lawful ways. Failure to comply with the Copyright Act could lead to personal liability, as well as liability for the University. Ensure that you use copyright protected materials appropriately. Advise students and colleagues to use copyright protected materials appropriately. Contact the Copyright Officer if you have questions.
What is copyright infringement?
A person who does something with a copyright protected work that only the copyright owner is entitled to do, and does so without the permission of the copyright owner, infringes copyright and can be held liable. Either civil or criminal penalties can be imposed for copyright infringement. Criminal penalties can include fines and/or imprisonment and depend on the seriousness of the infringement. While criminal penalties are usually reserved for those engaged in piracy for profit, civil penalties, including an order to pay damages or an injunction to cease infringing, can be imposed for other types of infringement. Monetary damages could be awarded to the copyright owner for loss of income occasioned by the infringement or for other losses. Statutory damages for all infringements for all works involved are limited to $5,000 if the infringements are for a non-commercial purpose. However, statutory damages increase to a maximum of $20,000 for all infringements of each work involved when the infringements are for a commercial purpose.
Generally, the person who actually infringes the rights of the copyright owner will be held liable for the infringement. In the absence of the fair dealing exception or a license, anyone who copies a copyright protected work (e.g. scans a book, photocopies an article) without permission will be held liable for that infringement, whether that person be a student, staff member or faculty member. Staff may copy materials at the request of others (e.g., a faculty member or a student). In that case, both the person who actually infringes copyright (the staff member) and the person who requested the staff member to so infringe (the faculty member or the student) can be held liable for the infringement. In addition, you may place liability on the University if as an employee you copy works in an infringing manner in the course of your employment. Before you engage in any copying or use of copyright protected materials, please consider the parties whom you might be impacting. Please follow all University policies to ensure proper use of equipment for copying works.
In addition to potential liability, staff at the University Libraries, Archives, Bookstore, Centre for Educational Excellence, Creative Services and Document Solutions have a professional responsibility to respect copyright law and may refuse to copy or print something if it is thought to be an infringement of copyright law.
What will happen if I don’t comply with the university’s copyright policies and licensing agreements?
Simon Fraser University copyright policies align with the Government of Canada’s copyright legislation (Copyright Act) and outline the institution’s requirements of faculty, staff and students to comply with all legal requirements.
Simon Fraser University is committed to compliance in all copyright matters. It is the responsibility of each individual to comply with copyright laws and respect copyright ownership and licensing. The use of copyright protected materials without proper consent may be actionable under both the Copyright Act and the Criminal Code. In addition to any actions that might be taken by any copyright owner or its licensing agent, the University will take any breaches of its copyright policy very seriously. In the case of employees, disciplinary procedures may be applied. In the case of students, disciplinary action for academic and/or non-academic misconduct may be applied.
Who do I talk to at SFU if I have a copyright question?
If you have any questions about copyright, or would like to schedule a copyright workshop for your department, please see the Copyright at SFU: Ask Us page or contact the Copyright Office (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Copyright Information Graphic
Explains how much can be copied for teaching purposes and explaining other exemptions in the Copyright Act that apply to teaching purposes. The information in this graphic also applies to students making presentations or handouts for other students.
Copyright Information Graphic (text version)
Copyright Decision Tree
Provides steps to determine whether you can use a copyright protected work in the way you would like to, both for teaching and for other purposes. Use this in conjunction with the Copyright Information Graphic above and other information on this website.
Copyright Decision Tree (text version)
Copyright and 3D Printing
Provides guidelines for creating your own 3D printing designs and objects, or using others' 3D files to print objects.
Canadian Public Domain Flowchart
A visual tool by the Copyright Office at the University of Alberta (2021, licensed CC BY) to help determine when the copyright term for a work expires, the work enters the public domain in Canada and it can be used freely (within Canada) without permission or payment of royalties.
Technological Protection Measures (TPM) Fact Sheet
Describes what technological protection measures are, and their copyright implications.
Sharing of Textbook pdfs Fact Sheet
Explains the risks to SFU students when pdfs of textbooks are shared online, and provides options if textbooks are unaffordable.
Copyright workshops and tutorials
Copyright Workshop Videos by the Copyright Office
These videos are based on our faculty workshops, and include Copyright Basics (an introduction to the basic elements of copyright law in Canada), and Teaching and Copyright (a two-part look at finding and sharing material in your courses).
Copyright for SFU Students tutorial in Canvas
This tutorial introduces students to copyright and how it affects their course work. It describes options for including third-party material in assignments and presentations, including applying fair dealing and other Copyright Act provisions, requesting permission from copyright owners, and finding openly-licensed and copyright-free material. The tutorial also explains students' rights as owners of copyright in their papers and other works, and limits on what students can do with instructors' teaching materials. This tutorial is available for importing into any course from the Canvas Commons. In the Canvas Commons, search for the tutorial by title (Copyright for SFU Students) and follow the instructions here to import it.
SFU copyright management information
SFU Copyright Policies, including the Fair Dealing Policy.
The SFU Copyright Office provides links to external sites for informational purposes only, and does not guarantee the validity of information found on these sites.
Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that promotes and enables the sharing of knowledge and creativity throughout the world. The organization produces and maintains a free suite of licensing tools to allow anyone to easily share, reuse and remix materials with a fair "some rights reserved" approach to copyright. To find Creative Commons licensed materials, check out their Content Directories, which list audio, video, image and textual materials, and their Search page.
Public domain materials
To find materials in the public domain (in which copyright has expired), simply search online for 'public domain' and the type of material you're interested in. Some useful sites include Project Gutenberg and Project Gutenberg Canada (the largest collections of copyright-free books online) and Wikipedia, which has an entire page dedicated to public domain resources. Vancouver Public Library has made many public domain historical photographs available through its photostream in the Commons on Flickr, and the City of Vancouver Archives has made public domain and City-owned digitized materials free for use on its website. A number of American cultural organizations have also made digitized public domain works available online, including the New York Public Library and the Metropolitan Museum of Art; please note that Canadian and U.S. copyright laws differ, and while works in the public domain in the United States will most likely also be in the public domain in Canada, you should always confirm this before using such works.
Open Access publications
Open Access publishers make their contents freely available online. Generally, these materials are also free from most copyright restrictions (usually by way of Creative Commons licensing), meaning they can be copied, built upon and redistributed. To find Open Access materials, see the Directory of Open Access Journals and the Directory of Open Access Books. Much work has been done in BC around open educational resources (OER). For more information about this, see the BCcampus OpenEd site. For more information about Open Access at SFU and publishing your work Open Access, see the Library's Scholarly Publishing site.